As it happens, the first two books in my Advent selection are the books I would describe as my favourite children’s books, one of my childhood and the other discovered as an adult. I say children’s books but really they’re teenage novels.
Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery was first published in 1915 and is the third in the series about Anne Shirley. It is the only one of the series not to be set entirely on Prince Edward Island. I first read it when I was about eight, which was ridiculously young, but it means that whenever I re-read it, there’s something new to discover. LM Montgomery was a brilliant writer and is much under-rated. There’s a general impression that her books, especially the series about Anne, are all sweetness and light but, if you dig slightly beneath the surface, you’ll see that there are some very dark elements in them. This third story about Anne sees her leave Prince Edward Island to go to college. She enjoys life in Kingsport, studying and making new friends including, she thinks, the man of her dreams. But her heart always remains on the Island – and so, it turns out, do her dreams. A book about discovering where you belong, this is LM Montgomery at her very best.
Hilly Craig, the heroine of Sisterland by Linda Newbery uncovers completely unexpected family history which influences how she sees herself and how her future might unfold. Like Anne, she has to investigate her past but Linda Newbery, unlike LM Montgomery, does not tell us the direction her heroine’s future takes (and I know, because I’ve asked, that she has no intention of writing more about Hilly). Sisterland is a contemporary novel and it considers community and prejudice, family life and secrets. Linda creates memorable characters and depicts a variety of relationships, some of them overlapping and all containing an element of tension.